Commentary

Using Search and Display To Build Branding

The percentage of time Americans spend with print media fell to 11.9% of total media usage in 2006, according to Veronis Suhler Stevenson's Communications Industry Forecast (VSS) released August 2007. By 2011, VSS predicts print media will fall to 10.6% of all media usage. However, for many brands, advertising spend continues to be primarily dedicated to traditional media, print and television.

The same report found that digital media continues to be the fastest-growing source of consumer media time, accounting for 5.3% of total media usage in 2006. Although local media outlets are going online in increasing numbers, part of the reticence brands and advertisers both have about moving dollars away from traditional media is its hold on local advertising. National and local advertisers that reach consumers through local media channels receive the benefit of building brand association locally in familiar media that carry automatic trust.

What comes before SEO and SEM?

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For brands and advertisers embracing online advertising, strategies typically include SEO/SEM and lead generation. Fewer online advertising strategies include branding or local search and display campaigns. According to comScore's 2006 report, "Close the Loop: Understanding Search and Display Synergy," online users exposed to both the search and display advertising campaigns purchased the advertiser's products and services 244% more online and 89% more offline compared to users who were not shown the ads.

Advertisers and brands whose Internet spend is largely dedicated to SEO/SEM and lead generation are surrendering significant market share. As the latest search and display numbers indicate, consumer conversion rates dramatically increase when consumers have more exposure to particular brands online. This also means that search and display do more than simply create opportunities for consumers to interact; search and display are pushing brand awareness.

Without a mix of display and search advertising laying your branding framework on multiple publisher sites, especially local, brands and advertisers are undermining the effectiveness of their advertising dollars.

Local Search and Display close the consumer conversion cycle

Within the consumer conversion cycle exists a continuum from awareness to consideration to purchase. Ideally, brands and advertisers want to touch consumers at the awareness phase. By analyzing where Web strategies begin in this cycle, brands and advertisers can strengthen their online branding strategy and brand recognition.

Brands and advertisers who begin their Web strategy with SEO/SEM face a very large gap between awareness and purchase. If you only communicate when your consumers are ready to purchase, it is likely that you are too late. What better way to develop relationships with your consumers then start with local search and display campaigns?

By running search and display ads on local online television, radio, and newspaper sites brands engage consumers in the awareness phase. Ads can now be targeted by ZIP-code or DMA, and by gender, age, and household income profile. Whether their ads are running on local sports, weather, or real estate pages, brands can reach consumers in media which they use and trust more than any other.

After creating brand awareness through local search and display campaigns, brands can follow up with shoppers by delivering ads in the consideration phase to consumers who have previously clicked on their ads and landing pages. With technology that tracks sites visited, links clicked, and ads responded to, advertisers and brands benefit from the insight provided by local behavioral and contextual targeting.

Importantly, all of this activity happens before SEO/SEM or lead generation reaches the consumer. Local search and display brings branding to the consumer before the consumer decides to buy. Unlike traditional media, new tool sets allow brands and advertisers to change their local online ads on the fly while providing performance metrics--important factors as marketers continue to demand performance and accountability. In fact, good search and display campaigns should inform your SEO/SEM and lead generation strategies.

Not long ago the interactive industry was wondering whether local media would be able to compete with Internet advertising and publishing behemoths like Google. Today's success of local online can be traced to timely, geographically relevant offers delivered to an audience that has built-in familiarity and trust with local media publishers. Technology exists today that enables national and local brands to deliver several campaigns and creative concurrently to disparate geographic markets with ease. If you haven't already begun your local media search and display strategy, there is no better time than the present to see just what kind of difference these technologies can make for you.

Pate has been president and CEO of AdMission Corporation since February 2005 after leading an MBO to spin the company out of its parent IPIX Corporation. Prior to establishing AdMission, Pate served as executive officer and general manger with IPIX.

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